26.12.2009 - 08.01.2010
The Spirit of Tasmania
Will that be Boags or Cascade?
We are up at 6am Boxing Day to take our very first ‘cruise’, aka The Spirit of Tasmania; although despite what their sales team will tell you, this boat is not the QE2, nor is Bass Straight on par with the Pacific Islands! However we did enjoy the day, and it was relatively ‘smooth sailing’ across Bass Straight with a 1-1.5m swell, which makes me wonder what the trip is like during a storm? And talking about Sailing, as I write this, the Sydney to Hobart has just kicked off back in Sydney, and I wonder if we will see any boats coming in over the coming days.
p.s. I can confirm they did have coverage of Day 1 of the Boxing Day Test onboard!
p.p.s. When we landed in Devonport, we had the most amazing eye-fillet steak at a restaraunt called Dannebrog’s (its a dutch restaurant of all nations.. but the meat is sourced locally). I first noticed the problem after taking the first bite, and my jaw stopped working. Cheryl had ordered the same steak, and for the next 10 minutes neither of us could utter a full word of English. O-M-G.
p.p.p.s. Talking about steak, did I mention that Tasmania is the Road-Kill capital of the world? Many stretches of road are just dead animals every 50 metres, as you weave back and forth around them, kinda sad, but it does serve as a reminder that after dusk you need to slow right down… during the day is totally fine (well except for rogue cows).
Leech-On-Body Count = 1
Leech-Destroyed-With-Extreme-Prejudice Count = 1
After picking up supplies in Devonport, we headed to Cradle Mountain, one of the most famous landmarks in Tasmania, even better is that it rains 7 out of 10 days in this area, but we lucked out and had a perfect cool sunny tassie day, it was the first serious exercise Cheryl and I had on the trip, and a chance to finally break in our shiny new hiking boots.
Srsly, I don’t know who grades the walks but this 2-3hr, supposedly ‘elderly friendly’ trail was quite exhausting, which was apparently not the case for many fit young eurocouples, who flew past us as if we were all in Jeans-West, and there was only 1 pair of denim shorts left on the sales rack... Actually something we noticed all along this trip was that the energy and 'fun' hyjinx of youth, can make one feel decidedly old… something to ponder there im sure…
Anyway, it also highlighted that the Tassie economy exists due to tourism, nearly every couple is speaking another language, which reminds me that I actually have a duty of care to supply you some actually serious education on the issues facing the Tasmanian way of life (skip it if not interested):
---- /start SERIOUS BIT ----
You see in Tassie, the Devil is king, he is the equivalent of the Shark, Arctic Wolf, or the African Lion, i.e. he dominates the food chain and controls the number of pests (foxes/cats etc) and plant-eating herbivores and what not, i.e. he keeps everything in balance. Keeping this in mind, there are 2 rather large problems going on in Tasmania:
1) Devil populations have dropped 80% due to an incredible face-cancer that is passed on by biting, of which they do a lot during mating or disputes (it is the only cancer in the world to be contagious!). Wildlife conservationists are busily shipping healthy devils overseas as a backup, and working on vaccines, but they are scheduled for extinction, and it is srs shit.
2) Without Devils to control their population, Feral Cats & Foxes are beginning to flourish. Oh and by the way, there have been feral cats reported to have taken down lambs in Tassie, so the big black cat shenanigans from back in Victoria, is starting to look a whole lot scarier!
Anyway, we saw this awesome documentary “Fox Squad” which is a crack government force dedicated to finding and eradicating Foxes in Tasmania.. only there is one problem.. they are yet to find an actual fox… they know a shipment were deliberately released into the state (over 25 years back), and they are seeing an increase in sightings and fox scat (poo), but without capturing a living fox, they are facing a lot of opposition from a sceptical population who believe “if we cant see them, they don’t exist”.
This is where Cheryl & I come in, we are ever on the look out for fox poo, in our bid to personally save Tasmania from natural and economical disaster.. and man is there a lot of animal poo down here.
---- /end SERIOUS BIT ----
The Island within an Island within an Island
Once we finished up in Cradle Mountain, we drove down to Strahan (On the West Coast) to spend the night, in what turned out to be a jam-packed camping ground, certainly a long way from the purpose of coming to Tasmania, so anyway after 1 night there, where we could unfortunately here every breath, snore or whatever of every adjacent tent, we decided we needed to find somewhere more laid back.. enter Bruny Island.
Located on the East Coast, Bruny Island is famous for its native Sealions, Penguins, Dolphins & Whales (It used to be a Whale Hunting base), we took a vehicle ferry across to the island, and started exploring, it is quite remote & beautiful with its white sandy beaches & wildlife.
We finally found a campsite we were happy with here, a private site nestled in the Pine Woods, with the roar of an angry ocean just a few hundred metres away, and finally a chance for us to make our first camp fire, with our Redhead fire-starters & neatly packed eco combustible wood bricks, I am sure that Bear Grylls would be turning in his snow-cave… but I have to say it is 1 very easy way to make a fire, and I also found out that Cheryl is quite the little fire bug (could be a ginger ninja thing?), and she is mesmorised by the flames, much the same as the way I am transfixed by water, perhaps it is zodiac forces at work?
Talking about Bear, I have been using a little technique of his, which is to mark out a barrier around your campsite using your err man fluids, he isn’t sure if it actually works, but he figures it cant hurt to try.. anyway.. I can confirm that it doesn’t work, because last night we heard the growls of a Tasmanian Devil from outside our tent door, and he was probably growling with content, because the bugger broke into our Ferrero Rocher stash, and ate the lot.. NOOOOOOOOO!!!!
One part of Tasmanian life that I have enjoyed is the rally style driving on the islands gravel/sand roads, it’s a lot of fun, but every now and then I am reminded as to how dangerous it is, skinny little gravel tracks following the coastline, with 2 directions of traffic and your death should you plunge off the side.. combined with tourists and 2WD cars, and there is plenty of adrenaline! Its something I like about Tasmania though, its still a little bit raw, without all the safety-first & OH&S that has killed all the fun back home.
Talking about cars, our Suzuki has been in the wars lately, apart from being absolutely filthy, I tried to overtake 2 cars on a skinny winding country road, only last night, but when I pulled out, the car would no longer accelerate past about 2000rpm.. it turned out she had picked up a bad batch of fuel back in Strahan and it made driving quite dangerous (Note: never re-fill when a tanker is unloading at the petrol station.. I was desperate mind you).
Anyway I got that fixed.. and today.. after driving for a good hour to the lighthouse on the most remote southern tip of Bruny Island, in gale-force winds, that we had managed to blow a tyre on the trail leading in (completely flat), probably not surprising considering the rough roads.. but doh, there is no mobile coverage on the island, the wind is smashing us sideways, half our gear is back at the campsite, and I hadn’t changed a tyre for 15 years, let alone on a heavily-loaded 4WD… still it turned out ok in the end, the only issue was the factory had the wheel nuts on super tight, and it was lucky that I had my “kickin boots” in the car aka ridiculously stiff hiking boots that are terribly uncomfortable for trail walking, but by jingoes are they good for kickin!
Anyway tomorrow we will head back, and try to replace the spare tyre, and kick on for our next adventure in Port Arthur!
Hobart & Mount Wellington
Spirit of Tasmania booking home, delayed by a few more days.. Check!
It was about this time that we decided we needed a break from the hard life, and damn did we need a shower, so we booked a 2 day stay in Hobart, with a very basic top floor apartment with spa, leather lounges & overlooking the harbour =). We were across the road from where the Sydney 2 Hobart boats come in, so we got to see the winning yacht and numerous other exhausted crews & vessels.
While we were in Hobart we took some time to check out Mount Wellington, man this is a lazy mans heaven (yep, we loved it), the islands tallest mountain overlooking the entire city, and there is no hiking involved, you can drive all the way to the pinnacle, jump out of the car and see it all from a viewing platform.
The NSW Cricket Team were staying in our hotel too, I felt kind of guilty that I didn’t recognise any of the faces in the lobby, but on TV that night, I saw Dave Warner score the fastest ever 50 (18 balls), and perhaps I just had too much time on my hands, but I began to wonder what the future of cricket would look like.. was this it?
Killing Sprees & Bruised Bums
Port Arthur (the historic site) was a bit of a disappointment, they have turned it into a theme park that takes itself very seriously, its $28 for the most basic pass, with forced walking tours, boat rides etc.. and srsly.. its just a poor-mans Old Sydney Town, it has a few old buildings and that’s it… we saw the important bits in 45 minutes, which meant the ticket lady wasn’t too impressed, because id made a deal with her that if were back within 1 hour we would get half our money back!
The Port Arthur coastline however, has a lot of natural caves and gorges, similar to the Great Ocean Road (but not quite as impressive), and Cheryl talked me into taking one of the jet boat tours to see it up-close.. and ok, it was pretty amazing from sea-level, you can see some of the many photos for yourself, but we literally “drove-into” the sea-caves and gorges, we cruised past dolomite sea cliffs that are the tallest in the southern hemisphere, we saw (and smelt *gross*) Aussie and NZ Fur Seals, and we even got to share some time with dolphins, they were hard to photograph (my poor camera and the salt splash), but Cheryl hung over the bow face-first for some close-in viewing! We both got very bruised bums that day, from the air-time coming back through choppy 1.5m swell, but through pride or stupidity, we refused to leave the front of the boat =)
We retired back to the apartment to await New Years Eve, it was our 10th NYE together (NYE is our unofficial anniversary), and it was our best NYE yet; we really lucked out booking a wotif.com the day before, with our apartment over-looking the harbour fire-works, so we just sat back to enjoy a spa, bottle of good Tasmanian champagne & just enjoy a cool night after a hot 35 degree day.. it was also wet and stormy that night, so I took the opportunity for some tripod photography.
I can’t feel my legs
Very slowly (and reluctantly) we checked out of our 4.5-star hotel, and headed north to ‘Wineglass Bay’, which is listed in the Top 10 beaches of the world (high praise huh!), and let me say that Tasmania has beaches as impressive as anywhere in the world, the only problem is that the water is so damn cold, it takes a lot of courage to actually get wet!
Anyway, I said before that I didn’t understand the walking trail grading system, and the trail to Wineglass Bay is rated “Moderate”, it is a 45 minute walk ‘up’ to the mountain top lookout, and if you’re a masochist, you can walk another 45 minutes ‘down’ to the beach itself (knowing you will need to climb back up). The track was so steep, it literally went straight up the mountain, there was no relief, and I imagine it to be like one of KB’s 45minute stair climbs, and it absolutely wrecked Cheryl and I (ok more me than her), and we will see if any of those exhausted “we need to get fit”, “lets join the gym” cries come to fruition..
We got pretty lucky with our campsite that night, a private little nook along “Friendly Beach”, backing onto a beach not dis-similar to Wineglass Bay (though more exposed), and teaming with cute little wallabies (or ‘wobbolies’ as Cheryl calls them), which makes me wonder why we find some furry animals so cute, yet 3 nights ago I was up into the night, chasing possums away from our camp with a big stick?
Friendly Beach (Check out Moses!)
Bay of Fires
Surrounded by Ranga Rocks
After a rainy morning, we said goodbye to the wobbolies, and headed to the Bay of Fires, listed as Lonely Planets hottest travel destination of 2009 (Noticing a trend here?), however obviously we weren’t the only ones with the same idea, and the campsites were packed to the brim.. and we had both had enough of cosy/crowded/over-friendly campsites, so we decided to take our chances on the north coast, but not before we took some photos which I hope do even a smidgen of justice to this area of coast, which is surely on par with any other beach in the world?
Man-Craft.. is it undervalued in modern society?
Turned out the north coast was a lot more remote than we realised, and there was hours of dirt roads and excuses for towns, and in a way this was good as it took us away from the crowds, and bad because we didn’t get as many supplies as we liked, but in the end it was great, and we were a few days ahead of schedule, so we decided it was finally time to relax and kill some time.
It finally hit me on our 2nd day here, as I stood waist deep on a beautiful deserted white-sand beach, catching ‘absolutely nothing’, with the smell of a campfire in the air, is that finally we were actually ‘holidaying’ in Tasmania, no running around, no sight-seeing, no dates, no photography, no putting up tents, we were just killin time, napping, eating, fishing, walking, reading.. all on a little piece of beach paradise. In the end we stayed 3 nights here, it was our last (and best) camp of the trip.
This area is also home to the rare Foresters Kangaroo (once thought extinct), which is now quite plentiful, and they were a regular visitor to our campsite. The little guys ‘thumpers’ as we call them, have a distinctive thump of their tail when they arrive, and they are so damn cute, its nearly impossible not to give them some food.. and of course if you do they are all over you like glue! And they are certainly not shy, happy to inspect your campsite up close, maybe leave a few poos.. I wanted to get cranky with them, but the were sooo damnnnn cuuuuttteeeeeee. On the last day I finally got a photo of the elusive ‘Baby Thumper’ too, who is shin-height and 100% adorable (and still quite shy).
However as much as we loved the daytime wildlife, the last night was very off-putting, we were sitting around the fire, and I was checking out some rustling from the bushes (Thumpers don’t come out at night you see..), and after we spotted its source, it turned out we were being stalked by some sort of evil-looking stealth Roo, who would kind of wander around the camp, pretending not to be there when I shined a torch on him.. I have no doubt he was evil from the vibe he was giving off, he was smaller, darker & with a shorter nasty tail (but he still hopped), he had beady orange eyes, and as I extinguished the fire, I realised he was not the only presence.. as 2 more sets of eyes flew in, a tag-team of dark possums (not unlike the racooni brothers) running with dramatic clown-like lunges through the bush. it was like the wildlife was closing in on us.. and clearly time for the humans to go to bed!
Regardless of the wildlife, the best thing about Stumpy's Bay, was to finally find a place I could work on my man-craft, i.e. chopping wood, digging holes, building fires.. and I fiiiinally got a chance to wet my fishing rod, as our camp site is right next to a beautiful, quiet, inviting beach. You can’t beat walking down to the beach with a fishing rod in 1 hand, beer in the other, and the missus in tow.
In terms of fishing… for 2 days I fished.. different times, tides, places & baits.. but absolutely no bites, I was cold and wet due to the cold winds, and having to wade deep to cast off the beach (using a short rod), and I love fishing regardless of whats happening on the other end of the line, but I was still a little dejected, but as I stood there.. I was reminded of a quote from one of the 21st centuries greatest philosophers: “Life has a habit of rewarding the Persistant” - Bear Grylls 2009.
It was the same lesson my father had taught me at Age 7, when I sat alone on the wharf till after dark, and landed my first flathead, and the lesson paid off this day also, literally as the sun pierced the horizon, I had a good strike and thankfully hooked him quite well.. I reefed him in (it seemed like forever) and slid him up the beach.. one big fat juicy bream! I gleefully took him back to campsite to wake up Cheryl, with a mile wide smile.. the last piece in my man-craft arsenal.. for I am man.. hear me rawr!
Launcestan, Caves (& finally Home)
Ah sweet civilisation.. how I love thou
Camping done, we were going to spend a few nights in the big smoke of Launcestan and Devonport, a chance to up our quota of Tasmanian cuisine, and put back on the kilo’s we had lost out in the bush.
We took a chance to do some of the tourist things, from the chairlift (greatest single span in the world lol), to cable hang-gliding (I can still hear Cheryl’s screams), Fern Glade & the local Boags brewery tour, and boy do they love a Boags Draught down here, we even got a chance to hit the popular Marakoopa & King Solomon caves on the way back, I will let the pictures do the talking.
So, we have seen sites across Melbourne & Tasmania, an epic road-trip, camping, seafaring, caving, gliding… we have seen more public toilets than George Michael on his recent Australian tour, but what have we actually learnt??
- We learnt that Tasmania is a beautiful place to drive, with a new postcard waiting around every bend.
- We learnt that you could spend a week or your life on the island, it all just depends how many walking trails you want to do.
- We learnt that Tasmania has 2 very distinct types of residents, there are the ‘perfectly normal’ Tasmanians, and there are the others that walk the streets with mullets &/or vertical gelled hair, tight jeans, flannos & ugboots… (putting the Boags into Boagans).
- We learnt that camping grounds are generally very busy places, and in the future we may need to research a little further; travel outside the school holidays & most importantly L24WD to find more remote destinations.
- Tent Touring is fun, but quite gruelling, 1-2hrs of your day is packing and unpacking, and it’s not too bad, but sometimes its nice to take a break, recharge and have a hotel with running water, hot shower & a toilet that doesn’t smell like curdled goats cheese.
- The Adso500 All-time best music collection, turned out to be a real highlight of the trip, it provided heaps of uplifting sing along tunes to pass the many hours of driving. Under-estimate your music preparation at your own peril!
- Gentleman (and Ladies), we learnt that 3 weeks is too long to go “shaver free”, even in Tassie…
And that’s it! If you made it this far, thanks so much for reading, let me know if you have any comments or feedback, and I will see you next, where I will attempt to bog the 4WD in all manner of boggable locations!
Adso & Chez